MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - Street fights erupted Thursday between insurgents and Ethiopian-backed Somali government troops, killing at least two civilians caught in the crossfire, a day after a fragile cease-fire collapsed, witnesses said.
Mogadishu's dominant clan, the Hawiye, had brokered a cease-fire about 10 days earlier to end the worst fighting here in 15 years. Four days of bloodshed that started in late March killed hundreds of people _ and possibly more than 1,000. The clashes on Wednesday that killed at least five shattered a week of relative calm.
The latest violence came amid signs a humanitarian crisis in Somalia was worsening. An official of the U.N. refugee agency said camps for Somali refugees just across the Kenyan border were becoming increasingly crowded and an outbreak of cholera had been reported there.
In Thursday's violence, Mogadishu resident Kibrin Nor said he witnessed the killing of two male civilians in a battle between fighters using machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
"I have seen government troops and insurgents fighting in my street as I was waking up," he said.
The recent fighting started late last month when Ethiopian troops used tanks and attack helicopters in an offensive to crush insurgents.
The insurgents are linked to the Council of Islamic Courts, which was driven from power in December by Somali and Ethiopian soldiers, accompanied by U.S. special forces. The U.S. has accused the courts of having ties to al-Qaida.
The militants reject any secular government, and have sworn to fight until Somalia becomes an Islamic emirate.
The U.N. refugee agency says 124,000 people have fled Mogadishu since the start of February.
Geoff Wordley of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said 2,000 refugees from Somalia, most of them women, have crossed the border into Kenya in the past week or so to reach the Dadaab refugee camps, a complex of three camps.
"They have been arriving through informal routes," Wordley said, because the border between the two countries has been officially closed since January. Kenyan officials were concerned that Islamic radicals would try to slip into Kenya.
The camps are growing increasingly crowded, and a UNHCR official said cholera was being reported.
Cholera can be treated easily, but is a major killer in developing countries. It is transmitted through contaminated water and is linked to poor hygiene, overcrowding and inadequate sanitation.
Somalia has been mired in chaos since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned against each other. A national government was established in 2004, but has failed to assert any real control.
The recent violence has forced officials to postpone until May 16 a reconciliation conference that had been scheduled for this month, the Arab League's Special Envoy for Somalia, Samir Hosni, told The Associated Press.
AP writer Salad Duhul in Mogadishu and David Ochami in Garissa, Kenya, contributed to this report.